Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) present in childhood in 15% to 25% of cases. The aim of therapy in children is not only to guarantee normal growth but also to prevent relapse and to maintain remission. Steroids are effective to induce remission; however, resistance, dependency, and irreversible side effects can develop. The aim of this study was to determine whether treatment with repeated infusions of autologous red blood cells (RBCs) loaded with dexamethasone 21-phosphate (Dex 21-P) is safe and allows maintenance of long-term remission in children with steroid-dependent Crohn disease (CD).Patients and Methods:
Eighteen consecutive pediatric patients who met the inclusion criteria were admitted to the study. Infusions of autologous RBCs loaded with Dex 21-P were performed every 4 weeks; the mean duration of treatment was 24 months. At the beginning of treatment and after 6, 12, and 24 months, we performed clinical evaluation according to the Pediatric Crohn Disease Activity Index (pCDAI). Assessment of body mass indexamethasone and bone mineral density by means of computerized bone mineralometry-dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, endoscopic evaluation, and hematic morning cortisol determination were also performed.Results:
During treatment, the mean pCDAI significantly decreased (P < 0.05); 78% of patients discontinued steroids. Determination of morning cortisol showed suppression only on the first day after infusion, followed by normalization of values. Endoscopic findings showed remission in 44% of patients. None of the patients experienced serious side effects.Conclusions:
These data suggest that repeated infusions of RBCs loaded with Dex 21-P can be safe and useful to maintain long-term remission in pediatric patients with moderately active CD.